The recent wave of criminal assaults with guns both here and abroad all too tragically dramatize the hideous crime this nation continues to perpetuate against itself--its consistent refusal to take effective measures to control the manufacture, sale, and ownership of guns. In 1968, this Board of Trustees expressed its opposition to this situation when it adopted a resolution on crime, urging support for, among other things:
...education and legislation at the national, state, and local levels that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms, easy access to which is a major factor in crimes of violence. We oppose efforts of "gun lobbies" that repeatedly have thwarted the passage of effective legislation and we pledge our support to those who are working for responsible control of this deadly traffic.
Since that time, we have done all too little to bring our practices into square with our pronouncement. During this time, the gun lobby has effectively blocked the passage of any and all significant legislation by publicly distorting the meaning and intent of the constitutional "right to bear arms" and by effectively using the pernicious clichi that "people, not guns, kill people." It would be as logical to defend the uncontrolled and unregistered use of automobiles by arguing that "drivers, not cars, kill people."
The continuation of this state of affairs has now become intolerable. During this century, civilian gunfire has killed over 800,000 Americans, more than all the military fatalities in all wars from the Revolution through Vietnam. About 20,000 Americans are killed in this fashion annually; each year guns were used in over 120,000 robberies. The rate of homicides committed with guns in the United States is 35 times higher than the rate in England and Germany. In 1970, handguns killed only three persons in Tokyo, where strict gun control is in effect. During the same period, over 500 persons were shot to death in New York City. Gun control legislation is, therefore, a vital necessity.
We urge that this statement and the position of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations on gun control be communicated to:
- all presidential candidates, with a request that they inform us of their position so that it can be communicated to our constituency;
- members of the United States Congress, with the same request; and
- the family of American Reform Judaism--commissions and departments of the UAHC, affiliates, congregations, and rabbis.
- Wherever appropriate, the UAHC, its affiliates, congregations and departments should associate themselves with like-minded groups having similar objectives to insure the maximum effectiveness of our effort to bring about the enactment of such legislation.